The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: MI6 was eternally grateful for my encrypted column

Related Topics
IT'S TIME TO come clean (dread phrase!). Over the years, quite a number of Fleet Street's inkiest scriveners have worked for our intelligence services. I trust I'm giving away no secrets when I reveal that I myself was first approached by MI6 when writing the "Cutting a Dash" column on Man About Town magazine in the early 1950s.

For the next 10 years, I sent my controllers vital messages through the apparently innocent medium of my award-winning column. These would mean little to the general reader, but to the boffins at MI6 they could spell life and death. For instance, if I applied the phrase "highly intelligent" to someone, it really meant "highly suspicious, possibly working for a foreign government, approach with caution, could well be armed". Looking back through my archives I note that I described Mr Rex Harrison, The Queen Mother, Mr (as he then was!) Norman St John Stevas and Miss Kathy Kirby all as "highly intelligent"; frankly, I see no reason to dissent from that judgement with hindsight.

Other codes were more enigmatic - to avoid detection by Moscow. For instance, the term "convivial", as in the sentence: "Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a convivial dinner party thrown by Her Grace the Duchess of Argyll", in fact meant "depraved and perverted", while the term "that most highly civilised of men" as in the sentence, "To Mayfair, where that most highly civilised of men, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, conducted the assembled company through a round of whist", was in fact code for "full Colonel in the KGB". Perhaps I should add at this juncture that "round of whist" is of course official MI6 terminology for a night of communistic sodomy and like-minded debauchery.

I was not operating alone. There were dozens of us. The great Marjorie Proops was a fully paid-up member of MI5; she used her Daily Mirror column to semaphore messages to her controllers for 30 years. "My penis is too small" was code for "A senior Cabinet Minister is a fully paid- up member of the Stasi". In these situations, "honesty is always the best policy" was code for "atomic weapon ready for collection soonest". And "For full address of the Marriage Guidance Council, see foot of page" was code for "The Deputy Features Editor is a CIA plant".

I have no wish to blow the cover of any present operatives, but I should pay tribute to the legendary "Godfrey Smith" (I must protect his real identity), who for the past 45 years has been sending vital information via his Sunday Times column. Adopting the unlikely persona of an overweight buffoon (the real "Godfrey Smith" is a spidery figure), this brilliant strategist uses ingenious codes, understood only by those who have worked 14 hours a day for two years getting to the bottom of his orotund prose style.

In the Smith lexicon, "tingle quotient" translates as "bomb at dawn"; "the immortal Wodehouse" means "have been unmasked: cyanide pills at the ready" and "hats off to the venerable Bard of Avon" means "enemy agent successfully eliminated: proceed as normal". Without "Godfrey Smith", it has been estimated that the Cold War might still be under way. One should remember, too, that on the very same morning that the Berlin Wall finally crumbled, the first paragraph of Smith's column read: "I forget, but was it not the legendary Dr Johnson - he of the Dictionary - who said that there is no tastier beast than a well-roasted hen-pheasant - or was it the irrepressible Muggeridge? A bottle of the fizzy stuff to the reader who can solve this muddlesome teaser!" It is now widely known that this passage was the trigger for the MI6 plants in East Berlin to begin hammering away at the first brick of that historic wall.

Who are my fellow operatives in the field today? My lips are sealed, for I would not wish to see them tied to a metal bed, gagged and tortured. Nevertheless, common courtesy forces me to pay tribute to Mr Richard Littlejohn, for the past 15 years the pseudonym of our mole Boris Spanletin, whose oft-repeated phrase, "You couldn't make it up!" is code for "am at present undergoing homosexual experimentation at the hands of an enemy agent. Please advise". Who knows where our freedom of speech would be without such doughty heroes?

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Installation Manager

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Scrum Master - Southampton, Hampshire - Excellent Package

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...

Senior Scrum Master - Hampshire - £47k

£47000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Key skil...

KS1 Teacher

£110 - £120 per annum + TBA: Randstad Education Reading: KS1 Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Spy chief speaks on the record: "Thank you, and that's it, really"

John Rentoul

The daily catch-up: fathers looking after children, World Cup questions and Nostradamus

John Rentoul
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice